J P Morgan: Emperor of Wall Street

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J P Morgan: Emperor of Wall Street

A&E (2005)

Film Review

This insipidly uncritical biography of the 19th century bankster, J P Morgan, relies mainly on reminiscences of his family and business associates.

Born in Connecticut in 1837, Morgan moved to Britain at 18, where his father worked in the merchant banking firm Peabody, Morgan & Co. A year later he returned to New York to join the US branch of Peabody, Morgan & Co.

The film conveniently neglects to mention he made his fortune during the Civil War, purchasing 5,000 rifles from an army arsenal at $3.50 apiece and reselling them to a field general for $22 each. Morgan evaded the Civil War draft by paying a substitute $300 to take his place (also not mentioned in the film).

In addition to his banking interests, between 1869 and 1883, Morgan systematically gained control of one-third of all US railroads. After his father’s death in 1890, he used his father’s fortune to acquire more corporations.

Following the 1893 depression, the US experienced a massive drain on its gold reserves and Morgan used an old Civil War statute to allow his and the Rothschilds’ banks to sell gold to the US government (at a tidy profit).

In 1901, he purchased Carnegie Steel to form US Steel Corporation (the world’s first billion dollar corporation). Following the purchase, he controlled roughly 70% of the country’s steel production.

After notorious “trust-buster” Teddy Roosevelt assumed the presidency in the same year, his attorney general prosecuted Morgan’s Northern Security Corporation (which ran his railroads) for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Morgan appealed, but the Supreme Court upheld the government order to break up the company.

During the 1907 panic, many US banks were again on the verge of collapse, when Roosevelt appropriated $35 million from the US Treasury to invest in New York banks to keep them afloat.

It would be the last time the federal government allowed a single banker (the filmmakers refer to Morgan as a “one-man central bank”) to singlehandedly control the US monetary system. In 1913 banking and political leaders secretly conspired with President Woodrow Wilson to create the Federal Reserve.*


*Contrary to popular belief, the Federal Reserve is not owned and controlled by the government but by a consortium of private banks.

The film can be viewed free on Kanopy

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/j-pierpont-morgan-emperor-wall-street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/j-pierpont-morgan-emperor-wall-street

The Incredible Tragedy of the Civil War

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Death and the Civil War Directed by Ric Burns (PBS) 2012 Film review This PBS documentary explores the unprecedented level of casualties during the US Civil War and its effect on future federal and military policy. The Civil War was … Continue reading

Did Slavery Really Cause the Civil War?

These Are the Worst Military Leaders of the Civil War ...

Did Slavery Really Cause the Civil War?

Mark Stoler PhD

A Skeptic’s Look at American History (2012)

Film Review

This lecture is the eighth in the Kanopy American History course The Skeptic’s Guide to American History. My initial reaction is that Stoler probably isn’t nearly skeptical enough. The South, which still refers to the Civil War as the War Between the States, sees states rights as the primary cause of the war.

Unfortunately Stoler doesn’t really resolve this controversy. However he rightly points out that the immediate cause for Lincoln’s declaration of war was not to end slavery, but to “preserve the union.”

However he never addresses why the union needed to be preserved, ie how did preserving the union protect the democratic interests of the American people? I personally suspect that “preserving the union,” mainly protected the interests of the merchants, bankers and early industrialists, just as preserving the European Union protects the interests of merchants, bankers and industrialists. Similar ultra-national unions will always reduce the input ordinary people have into major decisions that  affect their lives.

Stoler begins by talking about the collapse of the Whig Party in the 1850s following the passage of the deeply unpopular Kansas-Nebraska Act. This law, which created the states of Kansas and Nebraska. deferred the decision to the states whether to allow slavery or not. From the 1850s on, the newly created Republican Party, which committed to end slavery everywhere, would be America’s second major party.

Although Lincoln, a Republican, only received 39.8% of the popular vote in 1860, his strong support in northern states mean he won a majority of the electoral college. Lincoln campaigned on a platform of allowing slavery to continue in states where it was legal but preventing its spread to western states as they joined the Union.

Stoler also reminds us that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (freeing slaves in the states that had seceded) didn’t take effect until January 1883 and didn’t free slaves in any of the Union states.*

By early February 1861 (a month before Lincoln’s inauguration), seven states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina) had seceded.

After Union forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina (April 1861), four border states (North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee) also seceded. Four slave states (Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky) remained in the Union.

Stoler denies that conflict over states rights caused the war, arguing that various Northern states also lobbied for for states rights at different times (eg when they opposed the war the US launched against Mexico in 1846). I fail to see the logic of this argument. Just because the North agitates strongly for states rights over specific issues doesn’t mean the South can’t do so as well.

He also denies that a profound difference in their respective economies (with the South being primarily agrarian and the North being mainly industrial) was the root cause of the war. He argues this difference had been present since colonial times without leading to war.

He also poo-poos the distinct difference their respective cultures (with the South possessing an aristocratic planter class not present in the North) as the main cause of war. Here he points out that the North was just as racist as the South and hardly more democratic for the average worker.


*In Stoler’s view, Lincoln’s main goal with the Emancipation Proclamation was to buoy up Northern support for the war, despite massive numbers of casualties, and to open the Union army to extremely motivated ex-slaves. In his next lecture he also identifies dissuading the UK (where the population strongly opposed slavery) from entering the Civil War on the Southern side as a primary motivation.

The series can be viewed free on Kanopy.

How the West Steals Congo’s Mineral Wealth

Congo My Precious

Directed by Anastasia Trofimova (2017)

Film Review

This documentary exposes the shocking reality that the standard of living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DAR) hasn’t improved since it was the personal property of Belgian King Leopold II.

As of 1960, when Congo first declared independence, the country provides 60% of the world’s uranium, 70% of its cobalt, 65% of its coltan (essential for manufacturing cellphones, laptops and nuclear reactors), 70% of its industrial diamonds, as well as substantial quantities of cassiterite and gold.

Following independence, the CIA assassinated the country’s first president Patrice Lamumba, and Belgium, determined to protect its monopoly on the country’s precious minerals, launched a four-year mercenary war.

Between 1967-83, the country enjoyed a brief period of relative wealth when CIA-installed dictator Mobutu Seko Sese was on good terms with the US and Britain. In 1973, he made a UN speech condemning Western powers for brutally exploiting his country for its mineral wealth. In response, the West cut off all aid to Zaire (DAR was known as Zaire between 1971-97). In 1997, the US supported a joint Kenyan/Rwandan effort to invade DAR and remove Mobutu from power.

DAR has been in a continuous state of civil war ever since. Both the CIA and British intelligence provide weapons and other aid to the rebel groups that control access to important mines. See The CIA and the Congo’s 20-year Civil War

Exporters pay mineworkers $6/kg for coltan and cassiterite (which is insufficient to cover their living expenses). Which they on-sell to Western markets to for $120/kg.

The Western-sponsored civil war (efforts to disarm various rebel groups are ongoing – see DR Congo Ituri Rebels Disarmament), makes it virtually impossible for workers to organizer for better pay.

The Role of the Industrial Revolution and Modern Warfare in Third World Colonization

History of the World Part 7 – The Age of Industry

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This second-to-last focuses on the role of the Western industrial revolution in facilitating wholesale colonization of the Third World: British opium wars launched against China to make the world safe for western industrial capitalism, the US Civil War, Japan’s war against their traditional Samurai class, and World War I.

In the middle of the episode, the filmmakers take a break from war to depict the brutal enslavement of the Congo (as his personal fiefdom) by Belgian King Leopold II and to re-enact the invention of the steam engine and railroad, as well as Leo Tolstoy’s efforts to educate and free his serfs.

Part 7 begins with the brutal opium wars the UK used to force China to open up to western trade. At the beginning of the 19th century, a massive British demand for tea was draining their treasury of the silver European countries had expropriated from South America. However because China refused to import western goods, the British had no legal way to get  this silver back.

They eventually fell back illegal opium smuggling to pry open the Chinese import market. The result was an estimated 17 million Chinese opium addicts by 1839. The emperor’s clampdown on smuggling led to a British declaration of war. China’s primitive wooden warships were no match for the gunships born of Britain’s industrial revolution. After two wars, the peace treaty the UK imposed ceded Hong Kong to British control and forced China to open all their markets to western trade.

Modern weaponry would also give the industrialized North a clear advantage over the agricultural South in a Civil War resulting that killed over 650,000.

When Japan refused to open their country to international trade, it was US warships that fired on their capitol in 1853. When Japan modernized their military with Western weapons and tens of thousands of new recruits, their elite Samurai class, solely responsible for centuries for the emperor’s protection, rebelled. In 1877 an army of 40,000 Samurai faced certain defeat against a modern military force with at least twice as many men and Western military hardware.

The segment about Leopold II’s personal conquest of the Congo (and its rich mineral and human resources) under the cover of a “humanitarian charity” is well worth watching. Likewise the one about German foreign minister Arthur Zimmermann’s efforts to form a military alliance with Mexico during World War I – to help them reclaim territory the US stole during the US-Mexican War (1846-1848).

Otherwise the openly anti-German propaganda in the final segment totally obscures the real origins of World War I, as revealed by recently declassified British and US documents. This is covered really well in James Corbett’s 2018 documentary The World War I Conspiracy:. The World War I Conspiracy

 

 

Trail of the Spider: The Suppressed Racial History of the American West

 

Trail of the Spider: A Passage Through Limbo

Directed by Anja Krschner and David Panos (2008)

Film Review

Trail of the Spider is a short feature film in which the suppressed racial history of the American West becomes a metaphor for the racial landscape of East London in the grips of property developers.

The somewhat surreal plot takes place in 1870, at the end of the Civil War and “Indian Wars.” the last days of the “unassigned lands.”

Instead of the Lone Ranger, the hero is Man With No Name, an African American Buffalo Solder* who changes sides and fights for the oppressed instead of the US government.

*The original “Buffalo Soldiers” were members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the Negro Cavalry by the Native American tribes they fought. 

 

How the Protestant Reformation Laid the Groundwork for the UK Socialist Labour Party

The Protestant Revolution – Part 1 The Politics of Belief

BBC (2007)

Film Review

More stuff I should have learned in school. Either I was absent that day or I wasn’t paying attention. .

In this documentary historian Richard Jones-Nerzic explores the major political upheaval brought about by the 1517 Protestant Reformation, led by German monk Martin Luther. The film asserts Luther’s willingness to challenge the authority and corruption of the Catholic church unleashed a flood of revolutionary ideas, as well as political upheaval that lasted centuries.

At the time of the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church had immense political power, with authority to levy taxes, raise armies and wage war. Moreover there was already growing dissent in the Church about the sale of indulgences. For a price, anyone could purchase a guarantee of salvation for themselves, family members and even dead people.

In 1521, Luther was hauled before Holy Roman Emperor Charles, V, declared a heretic and banned from the Holy Roman Empire. Sheltered by a sympathetic prince, he grew a beard, Luther disguised himself as Squire George and spent his time translating the New Testament into German. At the time, the Church only allowed the Bible to be printed in Latin, Green or Hebrew. They maintained ordinary parishioners could only understand scripture if a priest interpreted it for them. Luther also made use of the newly invented printing press to churn out pamphlets promulgating his views.

Buoyed by these ideas, as well as heavy taxes and bad harvests, in 1524 German peasants staged a revolt, the largest in Europe prior to the French Revolution.

Jones-Nerzic goes on to trace Henry VIII’s split from Rome in 1538, followed by the Scottish Puritans, under John Knox, breaking  from the Church of England in 1630. In 1642, the split would culminate in the English civil war led by Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell.

The film then explores the close links between the radical idealism (emphasizing equality and justice) of the nonconformist Protestant movement and Britain’s Socialist Labour Party, formed in 1900. It makes the point that the founders of Britain’s Labour Party came to socialism via “the Methodist chapels of Yorkshire and Wales,” rather than Marxism.

 

Southern Discomfort: Rewriting Civil War History

Southern Discomfort

Directed by Mark Patrick George and Dana Williams (2016)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the white supremacist-linked Civil War monuments and reenactments that continue to dominate life in the Southern US. After touring the South for four years, the filmmakers identified 706 public monuments or statutes glorifying leaders of the Southern Confederacy, as well as 109 schools, 80 counties and ten military bases named after Confederacy heroes. Many Southern cities have streets named after prominent Ku Klux Klan leaders.

Most of the film focuses on Civil War reenactments that occur throughout the South. The reenactment movement developed during the sixties and seventies, in reaction to federal school integration laws.

In addition to interviewing numerous reenactors, the filmmakers interview national park rangers, local officials, Civil War historians and Black residents. The latter deeply resent the use of their tax dollars to glorify what they view as an increasingly white supremacist agenda.

Although most reenactors cite “educating younger generations about history” as their chief motivation for participating in Civil War reenactments, the latter portray a version of history that is more mythological than factual. Not only do they deny that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery,** but they totally erase the role of over 200,000 slaves who abandoned their plantations to fight for the Union Army and Navy.

Moreover it’s also clear that recruiting new members for overtly and covertly white supremacist “heritage” groups is another major goal of these reenactment festivals. One organization, the League of the South, actively promulgates the Great Replacement*** rhetoric espoused by white right terrorists like Dylan Roof and Brenton Tarrant.

The League of the South has its own paramilitary group actively working towards Southern secession from the US.


*Blacks comprise 30% of the population of Lake City Florida, host to the annual Olustee Reenactment.

*Most reenactors give “states rights” and “economic differences” as the true cause of the “War of Northern Aggression.”

**The Great Replacement claims there is a conspiracy to exterminate the white population of Europe and the North America by replacing them with people of color.

The Civil War in Libya

The Lust for Libya: How a Nation Was Torn Apart Part 2

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

Part 2 of Lust for Libya links the 2011 “uprisings” in Libya to the Arab Spring uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

It makes no mention of the CIA role in fomenting and arming the rebellion in Libya, along with the more peaceful 2001 Arab Spring “color revolutions.” See The Arab Spring: Made in the USA

I was surprised to learn the 2011 NATO bombing campaign was spearheaded by French president Nicolas Sarkozy (whose 2007 election campaign was financed by Gaddafi) and former UK prime minister David Cameron. It was they who approached the Obama administration as a third partner.

In total NATO bombers embarked on 20,000 sorties and 67,000 total bombings to virtually destroy Libya’s civilian infrastructure. With US intelligence support, rebel fighters captured, tortured and executed Gaddafi as he was fleeing Tripoli. With his demise, Libya became a failed state as it descended into a civil war between rival armed militias.

Libya’s National Oil Company and its central bank continued to operate, and for some bizarre reason the new de facto government (National Transition Council) granted a salary to all past and present militia fighters – a move that clearly fuels the ongoing war.

Libya has held a number of parliamentary elections since 2011, but none has been able to control the militias or effectively rebuild state institutions.

In 2015, the UN created the government of National Accord, which meets in Tripoli, although any government institutions that continue to operate are run by militias. A CIA-linked exile General Khalifa Hafter has created a rival government run by the Libyan National Army and which has seized the oil ports and all oil production.

France, the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are all supplying Hafter with weapons, in open violation of a UN arms embargo. Italy backs the Government of National Accord because they control natural gas resources Italy depends on – and, to some extent, the flow of African refugees departing from Libya for Italy.

Part 2 begins at 47 minutes.

The Lust for Libya: How a Nation Was Torn Apart

The Lust for Libya: How a Nation Was Torn Apart

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

This is a two part documentary about the 2011 US/UN invasion of Libya, which triggered its descent into civil war.

Part 1 is about pre-independence Libya and Muamar Gaddafi’s rise to power during the 1969 revolution. Prior to Gaddafi’s 2011 overthrow, Libya had no history as an independent state. It was continuously occupied from ancient times, by Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Italians and eventually a French/British and a British/US consortium.

Inspired by the pan-Arab movement started by Egyptian president Gamal Nasser, in 1969 Gaddafi led a successful revolution to oust the pro-US government. He went on to close the US/UK military bases and nationalize their oil companies and the Italian banks that controlled Libya’s economy.

With the 1973 oil embargo, the value of Libya’s oil doubled overnight. Gaddafi used the country’s new found wealth to rapidly build up Libya’s decaying infrastructure, as well as to provide free health care, housing and education (through university) for all residents.

Following Nasser’s death in 1970, Gaddafi sought to enshrine himself as the “man of the masses” who would unite the Arab world. In this role, he supported numerous international liberation struggle, including the Irish Republican Army, the African National Congress and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He also developed a bizarre and grandiose habit of claiming responsibility for terrorist bombings (including CIA/NATO Operation Gladio false flag bombings*).

In 1973 he revoked the Libyan constitution and ruled independent decree. Although he established thousands of Jamahiriya (people’s committees), they had no real power independent of the Libyan  military. The analysts interviewed here view Gaddafi as a benevolent dictator who was genuinely concerned about the Libyan people but lacked any education or training in setting up democratic institutions of power.

Worried a prolonged Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) would hinder US access to Middle East Oil, the US would launch its first covert regime change operations against Gaddaffi in 1981. These included a 1981 assassination attempt (by bombing his palace) in 1981, as well as an effort to frame Libya for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am passenger jet over Lockerbie Scotland.

The incident would lead to UN sanctions against Libya from 1992 until 2003, when Gaddafi signed an agreement he would end his nuclear program, assume financial responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and assist the CIA in fighting global terrorism.


*Operation Gladio is the code name for a CIA/NATO backed paramilitary network that carried out thousands of false flag terrorist operations in Cold War Europe. The goal of these operations was to justify repressive government legislation against grassroots anti-capitalist organizers. It was exposed in a 1992 BBC documentary. See 1965-75: The Decade that Nearly Dismantled Capitalism